England introduces new testing strategy for international arrivals and financial support for airports

From December 15 passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the UK government’s travel corridor list will be able to reduce mandatory self-isolation by at least a week thanks to a new strategy for testing international arrivals.

Under the ‘Test to Release’ scheme, passengers will have the option to take a test after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate. It is hoped that the strategy, announced today (November 24) by transport secretary Grant Shapps, will give passengers the confidence travel again.

Passengers opting into the scheme have to book and pay for a test before they travel. They must also complete a passenger locator form and will still need to self-isolate for five days before taking a test – rather than taking it at their port of arrival.

“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business. By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic,” transport secretary Grant Shapps said.

The scheme is announced as the government introduces new financial support for English commercial airports and ground handlers. The support will address fixed costs and be equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each business, capped at up to £8m (US$10.7m) per site, and subject to certain conditions. This scheme will open in 2021.

Bristol Airport welcomed the government’s announcement, and sees this as a hugely positive first step toward eliminating the need for quarantine for arriving customers at UK airports. Dave Lees, CEO, Bristol Airport said: “These measures will be essential for enabling and stimulating international travel for as long as we are living with this virus. Bristol Airport’s number one priority remains the health and safety of our passengers and our work colleagues. We will therefore continue to work tirelessly with our industry partners and government to implement solutions which will enable the industry to fully restart and recover.”

Reflecting on announcement of financial support for airports, Lees added, “Today’s announcement appears to be a welcome relief during what has been the most challenging period in our history. Hundreds of jobs and our economic recovery are on the line. Today’s announcement is vital for the UK economy and must be the first step toward safeguarding the prosperity of the southwest, both now and in a post-Covid and post-Brexit world.”